Let’s start with the basics: when did you first know you were an author?
I wrote my first full-length manuscript in 1993. It was an interracial, international romance featuring an African-American heroine and Italian hero. In my ignorance, I did nothing with it. Not seeing other similar books and believing the audience was non-existent, I didn’t seek out an agent or publisher. In my “defense,” this was pre-internet as we know and use the internet today, so this market information wasn’t readily available at my fingertips. And, shame on me, I didn’t even know how to begin going about finding it. A few years later, lo and behold, I stumbled on an interracial romance when visiting a bookstore! Did this incite me to pursue publishing my own? Sadly, no, because I was consumed with being a full-time college student then. Oh, to rewind time! Regrets aside, that was my first author experience.
How many books have you published?
To date, I have published four full-length novels.
Are there any that did not get published?
My first two novels were published by BET Books in 2002 and 2003, respectively. I had a contract for two subsequent books as well. Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis/recession our country experienced, I lost that subsequent contract and those two books never manifested. In fact, they didn’t even have the opportunity to be written.
Are you still going to make that happen?
No, I’ve moved on to better.
Written any really bad stories that we will never see?
(Laughing out loud!) Honey, yes and no! In my infancy as an author, I struggled with one manuscript in particular. I had to write, write, and re-write it multiple times until it was worthy of the light of day. I cut my teeth on that oft-rewritten manuscript. It taught this woman something. Now as to whether or not you’ll never or will ever see it? I’ll leave that a mystery.
What do you have currently out now?
My award-winning historical novel, Taffy, was released February 2016 and is still available. My Joy is my most recent (March 2017). I call it a RomDraMedy (Romance + Drama + Comedy). Told in first person, My Joy is the story of an agnostic woman who’s left her Fortune 500 job to pursue a culinary dream. A culinary student by day, our heroine, Joy Matthews, is a “companion” at a gentleman’s club by night. A sexual liberated woman who “doesn’t do relationships,” of course Joy winds up face-to-face with a saved, sexy, sanctified man. While My Joy is hilarious, it also deals with very real issues such as sex-trafficking, celibacy and Christianity. As I’ve been told by readers, it’s a must-read!
What keeps you motivated to write the next story?
God. Life. My love for literature. I am compelled to write by an inner, driving force and muse that have nothing to do with me. It’s a gift and calling. I’m just the vessel who’s willing.
I’m so excited! My first illustrated children’s book, My Tired Telephone, will be released November 2017! My Tired Telephone is the first in my The TechNO! Series, which essentially plays upon our children’s overuse of technology.
Editor’s Note: Since this interview, My Tired Telephone has been released. Please check it out.
Also, in April 2018 my first novella, The Art of Love, will be released. The Art of Love is part of the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance project. Twelve authors have teamed up to bring 12 novellas, one each month, throughout 2018. Each novella celebrates Black Love in a different decade. It’s amazing!
Additionally, I’m currently writing the sequel to Taffy; as well as contributing to a (yet unnamed) six-author romance anthology.
What can we, as your support group, do to help you?
I love and appreciate this question! As an author, I fully acknowledge that my work requires the powerful support of readers. Without readers, I’m just collecting dust. Readers influence other readers, so I’d love for Cilla’s Book Maniacs to be a part of my book community. You can help by sharing my book-related posts, reviewing my books on Amazon or Goodreads; signing up for my newsletter, chiming in on my social media posts, and/or reading and informing other readers of my works. Bottom line, my ability to connect with you and your connecting with me is a tremendous blessing.
What is the wildest thing a fan has said to you?
I honestly can’t say I’ve encountered any “wildness,” but I’ve encountered rudeness. Two events come to mind where readers took great pains to “put me in my place” and “keep my humble” as if God needed help doing that. They made sure I knew they’d hosted bigger and better world-renowned authors; or seemingly went to extra lengths tearing down my characters and pointing out my plot flaws. Constructive criticism is a benefit. Destructive demolition of a person or their product isn’t.
How important are reviews to you?
I admit I used to be married to reviews. I’d sit on them, reading, analyzing and (positive or negative) emotionally responding. I now look on and love reviews as a way for readers to communicate with other readers their take-away and perspective. I glean the good and even the constructive, helpful critiques, while discarding blatant viciousness.
Ever receive any hurtful reviews? Elaborate?
Absolutely, I have! I’ve received one and two star reviews. I’ve been ripped and stripped. My plots, my pace, my characters have been the recipient of disheartening reviews and comments that bordered on vicious. But, every consumer (including me) has an opinion. If I can take away something that helps hone my craft, I will. As for outright attacks disguised as reviews, I’ll leave those right there, thank you.
What conventions are you planning to attend in 2018?
I hope to attend at least two book conferences next year, but at this time I’m scheduled to appear as a featured author at Building Relationships Around Books’ A Reading Warriors Retreat in San Antonio, Texas, in October 2018.
Are you planning any independent reader events for yourself?
With the release of each book, I always personally host a reader event in my city. For example, when My Joy was released this past March, I hosted a Pajama Party. I also make sure to participate in signings at my two local, Black-owned book stores.
Tell us one thing you’d like us to remember about you?
I’d like for you to remember that I love and highly value my readers. When interacting on social media, I try to appreciate and even highlight others, and not merely streamline attention onto myself. My newsletter subscribers receive a feature called “Readers’ Row” and “An Interview with An Author” where I celebrate my readers and fellow authors, respectively. This is just one of the ways I’m honored to give back to my literary community.
Any authors you recommend?
While I have favored books not represented here, my absolute favorite authors are Dianne McKinney Whetstone, Bernice McFadden, Andrea Smith (The Sisterhood of Blackberry Corner), J.D. Mason and Guy Johnson.
Who inspires or motivates you?
I’m always motivated by my husband and our two children. I want my children to see and know that dreams are possible, and for them to wholeheartedly pursue their own. I want my publications and my author platform to prosper so that I can treat my husband to the blessings and benefits he deserves.
Any last thoughts?
I’m honored to be an author. I will always strive to write from the marrow of my being, and not formulate stories merely based on trends. I consider myself a work in progress, but with each and every book I release, I will give my readers my best.
I absolutely love hearing from my readers, so feel free to connect via…
Facebook: http://bit.ly/1VFrFVI OR http://bit.ly/1SMavoV
Amazon purchase link: http://amzn.to/2zRv4IK